The most recent episode of Baskets (Thursdays at 10pm on FX) did something monumental. In the midst of political theater and chaos, at a time when many Americans feel lost and at a loss of words day in and day out, Baskets — a show branded as a story about a struggling, modern-day clown — showed what it meant to put partisanship aside for the sake of human decency. I’m of course talking about our favorite TV matriarch (I’ve decided for us all), Christine Baskets, played with such heart (and heartache) by Louie Anderson, and her journey to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
Although Chip Baskets (Zach Galifianakis) is our protagonist, and we’ve rarely glimpsed any sort of political leanings one way or another from the Baskets family in its first season, last week’s episode confirmed my suspicion that Christine is a proud Republican. We know this now because of her undying love of Ronald Reagan, as she proactively escapes the confines of her hotel room in Camarillo, a hotel she has to stay in thanks to Chip’s wandering ways and potential jail sentence on the line. Anywho, while killing time before her son’s sentence hearing, she decides they need to get out and visit the not-too-distant presidential library. But here’s the semi-twist: she brings her new acquaintance, a fellow baby boomer parent whose daughter is also up for a hearing, but who also happens to be a much bigger fan of Carter. Christine, a white woman, and her new friend, a black man, put aside their political affiliations for the sake of sharing some company for an afternoon.
Of course, it’s easier to let bygones be bygones when both presidencies are behind them, and they both offer slights to the other’s preferred president (Really, the peanut guy?! Really, the actor-turned-politician?!). But their seriousness of allegiance is met with equal fondness, amusing in the fact that they can be worlds apart in their political leanings and life experiences yet here they both are decades later in the same predicament tending to their adult children. And it’s in these moments that these two characters find such human similarities and a connection beyond party affiliation that felt so reassuring in today’s strange political times. Did it make me wonder what Christine Baskets would think of our current president? Yes. Not sure how that would make me feel. But this Christine-centric episode, plus Chip’s journey to deliver his late friend’s pan flute to a rightful new owner, proved why this show has become so much more than Zach Galifianakis being a goof in a clown costume (and it’s actually never really been that show, but a tease at the first season would make one think that was the case). Baskets has proved to be a show with a lot of heart while it showcases the many idiosyncrasies we encounter in daily life, and often in really bizarre but amusing ways. And sometimes those encounters are with people who we think are very different from ourselves, yet when you spend a little bit of time to get to know them, you just may be surprised of their character. And if you’re lucky enough, that stranger just may buy you a bracelet of little Reagan faces strung together and make you giddy with glee (if you’re a Reaganite, that is).